Talking Points Don’t Equal Good Policy: The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act

The House celebrated tax day last month by considering the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act, which cracks down on federal employees who aren’t paying their taxes. Basically, if the IRS files a public lien on a federal employee for a tax debt, they would be fired, and people with tax liens would be ineligible for federal employment. When our country is running large budget deficits, going after people who aren’t paying taxes to support the government they work for seems like a no-brainer.

Except it turns out the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act “would have a negligible effect on revenues,” according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That’s probably because if the IRS has a lien on someone, they’ve already discovered the tax delinquency and are aggressively collecting on it. Also, if someone owes money, it helps if they have a way to pay. Like their job. It’s a shame we fired them.

The CBO did make clear that the law would have some effect on the federal budget. It would cost $1 million in 2014 for agencies to implement the new rules. That’s not a lot of money in the context of the federal budget, but it’s probably more than the government should be spending to needlessly antagonize their workforce.

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